But… I Don’t Agree

Building the tallest building, together

We all want the tallest building in the city.

There are two ways to attain the tallest building:

1. Build your building taller

2. Knock down the surrounding buildings

Bailey Eldridge pointed out to me on LinkedIn, the value of responding to someone with “and” rather than “but” when you might have a different viewpoint than someone. She said that she has found when responding to someone with the word “but” the person you are speaking with may feel nullified and that they are not heard.

We might not always agree, we might not always see eye to eye, but does that matter?

In his book, One Nation, Ben Carson writes, “However, I tried to look at things from the nurse’s perspective. The only black males she had seen come onto that ward wearing surgical scrubs were orderlies who were coming to pick up or deliver a patient. Why would she think differently in my case?”

He writes this about his experience in 1977 at John Hopkins University. He said that often when he went into a hospital ward, the nurse would essentially let him know that the body wasn’t ready yet. He would respond as so and state that he is actually Dr. Carson and there for another reason, to actually treat the patients, as a doctor.

The way he described it was that by being nice, he has another friend for life, rather than making that individual feel ashamed, embarrassed, or hostile.

By being kind, respectful, and empowering, he helps build the nurse’s building taller.

People always see things differently. No matter how similar you might be with someone, you are going to see some things differently.

So, what do we do?

We won’t always agree.

Thinking about consistency, this is something that I struggle with. Consistency is essential but, often we may (myself included) struggle when we aim to be consistently open to other perspectives.

I’m the type of person who doesn’t really study for class. It just doesn’t happen. I spend my time doing other things instead and make that the priority for me.

So, it is a struggle to be consistently open to the idea of people studying for hours and hours, I don’t understand it.

When talking to people and they say they’re studying for 3 hours, my first thought is, “wow, that’s crazy, didn’t you just study for like 2 hours yesterday?”

But… I don’t agree

I just want to tell the person that they don’t need to study that much. But, that’s not considerate of them, that’s ignorant of their needs, of who they are.

What I think is important in this situation and in all others when the person we are talking to thinks something differently than we do is to understand their perspective, or at least seek to.

I think I might have used this quote in a recent piece, but it fits well here also

“One’s first step in wisdom is to question everything — and one’s last is to come to terms with everything” — Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

When we are talking to someone and they feel something we don’t feel

When we are talking to someone and they think something we don’t think

When we are talking to someone and they say something we wouldn’t say

How do we react? How do we consistently react in the way we want to?

I think it comes back to what Ben Carson said. In the situation in the hospital, he listened, paused, sought to understand why the other person might think that and responded without judgment.

If we don’t agree with someone’s conclusion, then, before berating them, why not seek to understand how they got to that conclusion in the first place?

It is fair to say that two people may experience the same thing and react completely differently. But, without understanding why the other person is reacting in the way that they are, it won’t even matter.

Someone once said, “If we lower our expectations for one minute, we ruin our reputation in one second.”

What if we lower the expectations for ourselves? What if our expectation is simply to get our point across and share our opinion?

If Dr. Carson was in the hospital and in response he rolled his eyes, muttered under his breath and then enraged, exclaimed, “I AM A DOCTOR,” how would that have changed the result?

Dr. Carson said if he reacted that way, the individual may feel ashamed, embarrassed, or hostile towards him.

Is that how anyone wants to feel? Ashamed? Embarrassed? Hostile?

I will close this with one of my favorite analogies.

We all want the tallest building in the city.

There are two ways to attain the tallest building:

  1. Build your building taller
  2. Knock down the surrounding buildings

I’ll take it a step further. We are a city, right? We are a community, right? We are people, right?

Let’s be patient and seek to understand before being understood

So, why not help others build their buildings taller too?

We can do that by consistently gaining an understanding of the perspectives of others.

We can do that by pausing, considering their past experience, and reacting respectfully.

We can do that by asking the right questions of others and seeking to learn.

We can always learn from anyone. We simply need to consistently take the time to understand before being understood. Because, if we don’t take the time to understand why someone is reacting or responding the way that they are, who will?

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